Friday, March 03, 2017

Oregon Six Passes Super Randonnee 600 - Ride Details

If you are interested in riding the Oregon Six Passes SR 600, here are some important details:

Route Description: The course starts and finishes in Gresham, Oregon, blocks from the end of the MAX blue line. There are several hotels in the vicinity, making pre- and post-ride logistics reasonably easy. Riders first tackle the climb up Larch Mountain as an out-and-back. From there, the course circumnavigates Mount Hood, visiting various high points along the way (Lost Lake, Cooper Spur) before plunging down the Deschutes River and the desert of eastern Oregon. After replenishing in Maupin, riders climb back up the east face of the mountain and spend some time in the Clackamas River area of the Mount Hood national forest before visiting two ski areas. The ride finishes up with a long, fast descent, interrupted by a couple of short climbs out of the Sandy River drainage.

Here is a link to the route:

Ride availability: July 1 to September 30. It's possible to ride outside of this window, but only in an unseasonable year. If you're making long-range plans (e.g., you are traveling from outside of Oregon) I would not count on the course being passable outside of that range. To sign up: Contact me, and I will provide you with a waiver. To sign up, I need a signed copy of the waiver and $10. I'll then send you a frame badge, cue sheet, and brevet card. Finishers medals are available for $15.

Proof of passage: This ride format is slightly different for most of the intermediate controls in that you verify your passage by taking a picture of your bike (with the frame badge attached) in front of a landmark. You will want to either use a cell phone or make sure your digital camera's internal date and time are set correctly. Below is a link to the pictures that I took at the various controls so that you'll be able to recognize them (it's pretty straightforward; for example, at Lost Lake, you take a picture with your bike leaning against the Lost Lake General Store sign.)

Services on the route: This is a VERY remote ride. I strongly recommend 3 water bottles, even in cool weather. The list below is comprehensive; to even get water, you'll have to go off course if you're not at one of the locations below. Services are available at the following points:

MP 63.6 Brightwood Rd. (about a quarter mile off the course -- turn right from Barlow Trail Road onto Brightwood Road)
MP 100.3 Lost Lake Resort
MP 130.5 Parkdale (pub closes at 10 PM)
MP 138.8 Cooper Spur Resort (pub closes 9 PM weekends) 
MP 174.1 Dufur (pub closes at 10 PM)
MP 206.9 Maupin (restaurants open at 7 AM)
MP 217.8 Tygh Valley (I am told Molly B's Diner opens at 7 AM)
MP 223.3 Wamic
MP 281.5 Timothy Lake Campgrounds (water only)
MP 299.4 Top Stop Gas Station (Closes at 8 PM)
MP 331.7 Huckleberry Inn (Open 24 hours, off course on Gov't Camp Business Loop.) Other options available during normal business hours.
MP 363.5 Dodge Park (water only)

Hotel stops: You may want to make arrangements for sleep before and after the ride in Gresham, and in Maupin during (if desired.) With regards to sleep spots, at the beginning there are a couple options in Gresham. I engineered it so that the start is right at the end of the light rail line, and there is a Motel 6 right there. It's pretty skeezy looking, though. There's also the Clarion Pony Soldier Inn about 2 blocks away, and that's nicer. There are more options if you're willing to go further.

As for overnight options, you have a couple. I designed the ride so that you get to Maupin at the 330k mark or so, and having done almost 60% of the elevation. There are four or five motel options in town. I stayed at the Deschutes River Motel, and they were very friendly and helpful. Ron Himschoot had good things to say about the Oasis. Both places were very accommodating of a late arrival when we let them know in advance. I have stayed at the Imperial River Company in the past, and it's very nice, but probably more fancy than necessary. I believe there are a couple other options beyond that. Your other option is to stay in Dufur, at the Balch Hotel. Dufur is not quite 300k in, but it is still well over half the climbing. If you start on Saturday morning, and ride, say 18 hours to get to Dufur, then sleep 6 or 7, you would leave yourself a full 24 hours to finish the back half.

Oregon Six Passes Super Randonnee 600 - Ride notes

I did the inaugural ride of my 6 Passes 600k Super Randonnee in August of 2013. I had an incredible time; the course is like the 10 most awesome rides on and around Mt Hood all strung together. Literally the only piece of road that is not ideal are the bits on US 26, and you do all but about 8 miles of that at 40+ mph. Otherwise, it's composed entirely of gorgeous, quiet roads, surrounded alternately by lush forests and sweeping vistas.

 It is also -- and this is someone speaking who has done Race Across Oregon, the Furnace Creek 508, and several 1200k's -- possibly the hardest ride that I've ever done. The RAO course I did had 36500' of climbing to the 6 Passes' 33000', but RAO also spreads out the climbing over 535 miles, 160 miles more than the 6 Passes, so RAO's way less climbing-dense, and the 6 Passes must be ridden self-supported. In terms of randonnees, the 6 Passes makes the Willamette Headwaters 600 look like a piece of piss.

 If you decide to tackle this, don't complain to me about how hard it is -- it had to be exactly at least this hard to qualify to be a SR 600. Just remember, the rewards are commensurate. Just gorgeous riding on amazing roads. I really can't muster the superlatives to do justice to how great a ride I had; I do know that I'll be cherishing the experience for a very long time.

 In tackling this ride, I broke it down in my mind into 14 climbing sections; 8 the first day and 6 the second. I'll break this recap down similarly.

Section 1: Larch Mountain All of the Oregon riders should be familiar with this section. If you're not, don't cheat yourself any longer. Get out and ride Larch -- it's a classic for a reason. The 6 Passes leaves Gresham by way of Division, Sweetbriar, and Stark, and then takes the scenic highway and Larch Mt Rd up the hill. The route turns onto Louden on the way down. There were a couple of gravel sections coming down Louden when I rode it, and they appear to be logging Larch at the lower elevations (a shame for the scenery), so watch out for log trucks. The descents are moderately technical -- not too much braking required (although watch out for the left-hand sweeper just below mp 12.)

Section 2: Bull Run and Marmot Not a huge amount of *total* elevation in this section, but some intense, steep climbing. Very pretty forest/rural scenery. Stupid technical descents, especially below Marmot -- there's a turn marked as a 15 mph turn, and then an even tighter one right after, so be careful.

Section 3: Lolo Pass A not terribly difficult section of river grade up Barlow Trail Rd, followed by increasingly steep sections as you go up to the pass. I put the route on NF 1828, which is the back way up the pass -- it's longer and steeper than the main road, but also quieter and prettier (the main route, NF 18, just goes up the high-ten powerline right of way, which, bleck.) There's a photo control at the junction with the road up to Topspur. The descent on the other side of the pass kicks off with 5.5 miles of gravel. The gravel was in ok shape for me -- some washboarding on the steeper parts and about 5 sections with potholes, but at least the surface was in general reasonably solid. All the same, best to keep a reign on your speed until you get to the asphalt (except for you 650b cultists, who can feel free to let it roll.)

Section 4: Lost Lake The climb up to Lost Lake is about 6 miles, and is steep but not absurdly so. The road shimmies back and forth across the volcanic hillside, through the drier foliage of the east side of the mountains. Traffic volume is a little higher on this road than you will have seen so far, but still quite light. The store at the resort is the control, and represents your first chance to get more food and water since the start. The route goes back the way you came, including heading back up NF 18 towards Lolo Pass, 3 miles to the junction with NF 16.

Section 5: Blue Ridge (NF 16) My first draft for this course went up to Cloud Cap. This road was my plan B when I learned that the road up to Tilly Jane is 9 miles of gravel and closed for at least a year, to boot (sue me, it's been years since I last went up there.) I had no idea that it would turn out this road (NF 16) is one of the major highlights of a highlight-ridden course. After you leave NF 18 again, NF 16 goes up pretty steeply. Then you get to the first switchback and it gets *insanely* steep. Fortunately, this is very short-lived -- I walked the steep section, and crested it very quickly. After that, the grade backs way off, going up very moderately over the course of 2 more switchbacks. At the top of the 3rd switchback, you're basically at the top. The road trends downhill gently for a few miles, and then up to a second summit. All along this section are breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and eventually the mountain. The photo control is just before the second summit, at a water hose hanging from a scaffolding. The descent on the other side down to Parkdale is *extremely* technical. WARNING: There is a giant crater in the middle of the road that's just at the start of the downhill -- it can be extremely hard to spot, as it's just below a rise. The rest of the pavement is in good shape.

Section 6: Cooper Spur Parkdale, at the beginning of this section, is a nice place to take a break and maybe get some dinner. There's a market and a few restaurants in town. The road up Cooper Spur isn't particularly difficult, but it does go up consistently for the next 8 miles. Then you're at the resort, where there's a well-regarded restaurant and a market (another good option for dinner.) You still have to go up another 2 miles to the gate of the ski area and the end of the pavement. Then you turn around and head back down the hill, bearing a right at the resort and heading down to OR 35.

Section 7: Surveyors Ridge A couple miles up OR 35, and then it's a left turn onto NF 44. This is one of my favorite roads anywhere. You start off climbing up through alpine doug fir forests, crest out in about 5 or 6 miles from the highway, and then scream downhill for 21 miles into Dufur, through forests that rapidly change from fir to pine to oaks. There is absolutely nothing technical about this descent. It's 21 miles straight down, and if you have a good aero tuck, there's no reason that it'll take you even 40 minutes to get from top to bottom. There's a greasy spoon tavern and a surprisingly nice antique hotel in Dufur if you want to call it a day here -- not quite halfway in terms of mileage, but with more than half your climbing finished.

Section 8: Tygh Ridge From Dufur, the route goes south on 197, but only for about a mile. Then it turns off onto Dufur Gap Rd, which is the back way up to Tygh Ridge Summit. It adds a little less than a mile to the distance, but the grade is way easier than the main highway, and obviously there's less traffic. The scenery is much more pleasant, too, if you're there in daylight (I wasn't.) There's photo control at the junction with Friend Rd to keep you honest. Dufur Gap Rd plops you back onto US 197 right at the top of the 6 mile descent into Tygh Valley. At the bottom of the hill you hang a left to go down to Sherrar's Falls, and then take the frontage road into Maupin. Plenty of motels and other services there -- I imagine this will be where most folks grab a little rest in preparation for the second day of riding. Note that none of the restaurants open before 7 am -- if you want a sit-down breakfast, one possible option would be to have a snack out of your supplies, and eat at the Sportsman's Pub and Grub in Wamic, which opens for breakfast at 8. (UPDATE: I am told that there is a breakfast place in Tygh Valley that opens at 7 called Molly B's Diner, though I have not confirmed its whereabouts or current operational status.) (UPDATE 2: Gary Prince confirmed for me last year that Molly B's is indeed a going concern, and it does open at 7, so that's my definite recommendation for a refueling stop and an early-ish start on day 2.)

Section 9: The Barlow Road Out of Maupin, riders will head up over the plateau to Tygh Valley, and then up Wamic Market Rd. In Wamic, in addition to the aforementioned pub, there's a market and an espresso stand. It's your last chance to resupply for a while, so stock up. Many of you are familiar with this road -- it's a long, long climb, and there's a 5 mile stretch with annoying, jarring frost heaves every 20 feet or so. They only really go away once the road starts to get steep. It's a gorgeous road, though, and no cars. Just past the signs for Boulder Lake and Bonney Meadow, the road points downhill for 2 miles to the White River.

Section 10: Cedar Burn Rd/High Rock This climbing section actually has two subsections. The first is the bit that gets you up out of the White River to US 26. The second is the climb up to High Rock. The road up to High Rock is the more significant undertaking by far. Some nice alpine forests in this stretch, but also a lot of logging activity. No water opportunities, but there are at least pit toilets at the Skyline sno-park. This section ends with a bugs-in-the-teeth, 6 mile descent down Shellrock Creek to the junction with NF 57, for a photo control.

Section 11: Anvil Creek/Frog Lake Butte Another climbing section with 2 subsections. From the photo control, the route goes back up Shellrock Canyon on NF 58 for a mile and turns onto NF 5810. It's a pretty steep but extremely quiet climb for 3.5 miles from the junction with 58, because 6 miles from 58, the road disappears. Not to worry, just follow the single track for a few dozen yards, hop across Anvil Creek (which was a trickle for my ride) and scramble up the bank on the opposite side. Voila! There's road again. It'll take you down to and around Timothy Lake (where there is water at the campgrounds); take 42 back up to US 26, and US 26 over Blue Box Pass. There's a quick descent down to the Salmon River, and a mini mart for you to resupply at. I had been extremely worried about doing this fast descent in heavy traffic, but I needn't have been -- the shoulder is HUGE and it's in great shape.

Section 12: Mt Hood Meadows From the mini mart, it's just 2 miles or so to the OR 35 junction. Once you turn off of US 26, the traffic really dies down. You climb up to Barlow Pass, and then up to the White River, and finally up to Bennett Pass. From Bennett, it's 2 fairly steep miles up to the ski area. The road is really wide and does not turn tightly at all, so it's a fun descent. The descents off the two passes are even better.

Section 13: Timberline It's fitting that this is the penultimate mountain section. It's a suitable climax for such an epic undertaking, cresting out at nearly 6000'. I was terrified. I'd ridden up to Timberline before as part of Race Across Oregon, and it was extremely difficult. I wasn't sure if I had enough left in my legs to winch my way up. As it happens, though, that route on RAO took the main highway up to the lodge. Since then, I've learned about West Leg Rd, which is the secret, awesome route that people in the know do. This was my first time on it, and oh my goodness, what an amazing road! No cars, classic alpine forest scenery, a twisty windy road that clawed its way up the hillside while keeping an amazingly consistent grade, and best of all, no cars! It dumps you out at Timberline just below the main parking lot, you loop up to the day lodge to get your photo, and then it's straight down the mountain.

Section 14: Marmot/Dodge Park The coda to the route begins after you've zoomed all the way down US 26 past Brightwood, and turned onto Sleepy Hollow Rd. You retrace your steps through Little Switzerland, and then attack the three ridiculously steep pitches on Marmot Rd with whatever your legs have left in them. Once you crest that last grade, your reward is a series of sweet descents, from Marmot to Shipley to Ten Eyck to Lusted, all the way down to Dodge Park. Take your photo for your last control out on the course, and then it's just Model T grade climbs up out of the Sandy River on Lusted and Dodge Park Blvd. The climb on Dodge Park Blvd takes a while, but only because it's such and incredibly easy grade (the road was built on an old interurban railroad right-of-way.) When you crest it, you get a nice gentle downhill into Orient, and then Orient Road and Powell take you to Hogan Road and back to where you started.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Alsea Falls 400k Preride Notes

Overall Remarks:
This is a lovely ride, made all the more so for featur‌ing a bunch roads that the Oregon Randonneurs haven't spent much time on. It definitely breaks down into distinct sections, with the first half featuring a fair amount of climbing and a liberal amount of shade, while the second half is flatter but more exposed. I'd say that of the 400k courses that I've ridden or could imagine, this one is about average -- harder than the Covered Bridges 400, but easier than the Nehalem 400. It's probably slightly easier than Kramer's Klickitat Explorer 400 from a couple years ago.

Of course, the heat and the wind make a big difference, and I had plenty of both for my pre-ride. The forecast for next week looks a lot more moderate, so riders should be very comfortable. In any case, the three hardest climbs all feature copious shade (or happen well before the day heats up).

The scenery is entirely fantastic. Lots of trees and distant hills, farms and pastures. There are parts of the coast range early in the ride that look more like the alpine Cascades, even though you're barely scraping 2000'.

Alsea Falls 400 preride notes:

The course keeps you off of 99W for a while, but joins it in downtown. After you get through downtown McMinnville, the turnoff to stay on Baker Street is kind of subtle. Baker Street keeps going straight while 99W veers off to the right. Make sure to take the road between the Napa and the Union 76 station.

The climb up to Sheridan Peak is pretty nice up to the reservoir on Meadow Lake Road, but is absolutely gorgeous once you make the turnoff from the Nestucca River Road. This is the one tricky navigation point of the ride; just past the BLM sign welcoming you to the Nestucca River Recreation Area, the road goes down to the left, crosses a drainage, turns up to the right, and at the top of that, there's a broad, paved section, with an un-named road that goes off to your left. That's Bald Mountain Road. You'll know you're in the right place if it doesn't turn into gravel. You'll also pass an OHV area soon after you make the turn.

We'll have a staffed controle at the viewpoint, giving you a chance to top off your bottles and catch your breath after the climb. And while the climb is satisfying enough, the descent from the Sheridan Peak viewpoint is even better; it's easily on par with the downhill run on NFD 42 from the Timothy 200 last year, and it goes almost all the way to Willamina. And the pavement is in remarkably good shape.

Services are available at Willamina and Sheridan.

Ballston should be familiar to most of you. The section from Ballston to Dallas has a couple 100' hills; it's kind of similar to the Cascade Highway south of Silverton, actually. There are services in Dallas, including a bike store if you need it.

There's some traffic between Dallas and the turnoff to Falls City. The posted speed limit is 55, but traffic isn't so dense that there isn't plenty of room for everyone. After you get past Falls City, it's really light.

The road up to Falls City is good, featuring a couple small rollers. There's a store and a park there. There's also a pretty awesome looking mountain bike park just west of town; I'll have to take my Santa Cruz there sometime. Across the bridge, riders make an immediate left on Main St, and follow it as it becomes Bridgeport. Bridgeport has about a 1 mile section with intermittent gravel. It's hard packed, not at all loose, and there are almost no potholes, so it's easy to get across on a bike. It's basically 2 gravel sections, each about a quarter mile long. I did it on a 'bent with 23mm tires with no problems.

Once you rejoin OR 223, the traffic continues to fall off. There're some pretty good rollers all the way to US 20, though. No hills really stand out in particular, but you'll definitely feel their cumulative effect. Services are available at the King's Valley store.

US 20 has more traffic, but an ample shoulder. It's a small climb at the start, and then a longer downhill that pretty much takes you to OR 34. I filled my bottles from a hose bib at the antique store on the corner -- there are no services from here to Alsea.

OR 34 has less traffic than US 20, and almost as much shoulder. It's a pretty pleasant road to ride on, and bicycles are expected. It's a couple miles before you start the climb up to Alsea Summit, but once you do, it's only about 3 miles. You'll definitely know when it's begun. It's all downhill and then flat into Alsea, which was a lot more charming in person than it's Google streetview would have you believe. The Alsea Mercantile is staffed by a couple cheery women, and is open until 7.

Heading south out of town, follow the signs for Alsea Falls. The road is pretty flat for a while, and then starts going up at a pretty challenging grade. And then it plunges downhill. Don't worry: that's the worst part of this next section. It's a gorgeous, quiet road with no traffic and an incredibly reasonable grade all the way up to the summit. And there isn't just shade from adjacent tall trees; there is a full-fledged canopy of overhanging branches -- you should be plenty comfortable, even if the sun is right overhead. There are steep-ish sections, but you're done with them almost as soon as you notice them. If it's hot, definitely take a break at Alsea Falls, which is an incredibly inviting slick rock cascade. The Vincent Sikorski hydro-thermal cooling method might be advisable. It's about 5 miles from the falls to the top.

The descent on the other side is steeper than the climb. It's also too technical to just let your bike go, but it's great fun, and you don't have to ride your brakes the whole way. At the bottom it's a flat stretch through Alpine to your next services at Monroe.

From Monroe across the Willamette, through Harrisburg to Gap Road is typical Willamette Valley abstract plain scenery. The roads are mostly very quiet, except for a short stretch on 99E when you cross the river into Harrisburg. There are services open late in Harrisburg. Once you turn north on Gap Road, you get some interesting views again. You'll also have I think three climbs associated with Brownsville Gap. They're not long, but you'll feel them. Once you crest the last and biggest of the three, it's a fast stretch into Brownsville.

Brownsville is a totally sweet little town that I would like to spend a day or an afternoon in sometime. Unfortunately, most of the businesses on the nifty looking main street will be closed for many of you. But there is a Chevron Station on your left as you roll into town that is open until 11:30. For many of you, this will be your last chance to fuel up until Salem.

North of Brownsville, you get a few more rollers and another minor gap that you have to winch up through. After that, there's only enough terrain to keep it interesting to look at -- it's pretty much flat until just before Jefferson. The only thing to note: as you turn left from US 20 onto Harber Road, there's a little bit of loose gravel on the pavement. So don't hit that turn too hard, or it might hit back.

It's an easy climb over Scravel Hill to Jefferson. There are services in Jefferson if you get there early enough. Then you have to pull yourself up through Parrish Gap, which is a bit painful at this stage of the ride. At least it's short. It's fun rollers into Turner, and then pushing over the easy bump of Turner Gap gets you into Salem, the last control.

Crossing the new bike/pedestrian bridge off of Union Street gets you on the right side of the Willamette again, and an efficient-but-not-too scenic stretch on Wallace Road gets you out of town. After you turn left on Hopewell Road, there are a couple short steep bumps that reward you with a nice quiet path to Webfoot, which is a sweet, flat, empty little road. When you hit Stringtown, you're home free. That, Cruickshank, and a couple miles on the shoulder of OR 18 lead you back to the Best Western.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Barlow Trail 300k Preride Notes

Overall Remarks:

This might be the best, most incredible single-day bike ride I've ever done.

I really don't want to toot my own horn too hard, here, but having now ridden the course, I know that I had good reason to be excited about it ever since I dreamed it up almost a year ago. This ride has almost everything I love about Oregon: rushing rivers, crashing waterfalls, lush fir forests, earthy pine forests, alpine meadows, and stark desert canyons. Except for the last 30 miles, it only follows quiet, scenic byways where you'll see very few other vehicles. And that last bit at least has the decency to go by quickly.

The course has everything I love about riding, too: the climbs are challenging, but not cruel. There are plenty of interludes to recover in between tough sections. The descents are fun, but never so technical that you have to waste your hard-earned potential energy by riding your brakes.

This ride will challenge you, but I think you'll appreciate that the course goes the way it does out a sense of exploration and because of the terrain, and that there are no gratuitous elements tacked on for reasons of machismo.

Riders will need to be prepared. This is a 3 bottle ride. You might never drink three bottles between refilling opportunities, but it will probably be hot enough that you'll be glad to have a little extra to dump on yourself. It's also a 3 or even 4 sandwich ride (along with plenty of ensure). I only brought 2, thinking that I'd eat at Government Camp. But I failed to realize that, basically, the ride is over when you get to Government Camp, and I needed more sustenance to handle the climbs to get me there. Finally, you'll be riding in the desert and at 4500' and everywhere in between, at high noon and possibly into the night. Bring a range of appropriate layers for these conditions!

I don't want to be trite, but the rewards are easily commensurate with the challenge. People who complete this ride will have a new sense of what they can do.

Barlow Trail 300 preride notes:

There's a Safeway next to the Best Western in Sandy that opens at 5 AM, so folks will be able to get coffee and last minute supplies.

The first couple miles have a few rollers, but nothing at all bad. Then you're down on 224 along the Clackamas, and you don't see anything particularly hill-like until a couple miles before Ripplebrook (30 miles or so).

The restrooms at the rest stop outside of Estacada are closed. The Estacada Thriftway probably won't be open yet. But there is a nice lady working the Union 76 station on Main St, and they have a restroom.

Everyone be sure to take a right at the PGE Westside Hydro project. There is a sign that says Dead End, but that's just for cars. Bicyclists are welcome to go around the gate and enjoy 6 miles of beautiful road along the river, all to themselves.

Promontory Park is your last chance for food until Ripplebrook, which doesn't open until 9. Only the slowest riders will be at Ripplebrook after it opens. The next chance to get food will be at the staffed control at Anvil Creek. From Estacada to Ripplebrook, there's water at most of the camp grounds. There is also water at Ripplebrook from the hose bib to the left of the front door.

There's no water between Ripplebrook and Anvil Creek (other than the river, and I don't want anyone to get giardia), but there is plenty of climbing on that stretch, so make sure you have enough water before you leave Ripplebrook.

There's a mile climb just before Ripplebrook, then some nice flats and gentle rollers, then it starts climbing again when you turn onto 57. It's up for a couple miles, then down to the Oak Grove Fork, then river grade to the 58 junction. 58 is a mile of up, and then a right turn onto the first paved road, 5810. 5810 starts out steep, but relents before long.

The grade varies quite a bit, but is generally up for about 4 miles. It's a lovely, empty 1 lane road with occasional turnouts. Plenty of shade and occasional good views out over the Cascades to the south.

After 4 miles, you crest 5810, and then it's rollers to the Anvil Creek control. There's a sign saying the road is closed ahead; ignore it. Allison and I will be at the end of the pavement with food and water. We'll also be happy to help you get your bike across the creek, which is about 5 feet across and maybe 4 inches deep. At the top of the bank on the other side, the pavement starts up again, and it's a fast cruise all the way down to Timothy Lake.

Lots of campgrounds and picnic grounds around the lake with lots of water and toilet facilities. If you go slightly out of your way at the junction with 42, off to the right is the Clackamas Lakes Ranger Station. If you ask the rangers nicely, they might let you use the actual flush toilet there. Regardless, the little museum/visitor center is pretty cool. Once you leave Timothy Lake, there's no more water until Bear Springs campground on OR 216.

42 leads you up from the lake to US 26. It's not at all a consistent grade, and not particularly difficult. Make a right turn onto US 26, and you lose 400 feet as you descend down to Clear Creek, and then have to earn 250 feet back again. There's a good shoulder the whole way, and the traffic wasn't too bad for me.

At the ODOT maintenance facility, follow the signs left onto OR 216 towards Maupin. About 4 miles down OR 216 is the Bear Springs campground, with toilets and water. 216 goes up and down for several miles, but then finally gets down to the business of descending about 7 miles from US 26. When the descending starts, things get quick.

Unfortunately, Juniper Market in Pine Grove has closed down, though there is a Coke machine at the trailer park. It shouldn't be a big deal, as Walter's Corner is only a few (very fast) miles away at Wapinitia. And it's only a few (very fast) miles beyond that to Maupin. In Maupin, there are a couple options for resupply -- there's Grave's Market in the main part of town, and then a couple market/delis, one on either side of the bridge across the Deschutes. There's also water and bathrooms at the Maupin city park along the river.

There is plenty of shade from Estacada all the way to Pine Grove, and from Pine Grove to Maupin goes very quickly.

It's gonna be heating up, here. After you cross Sherar's Bridge and climb up out of the Deschutes along Winter Water Creek, I would strongly suggest taking the short detour into White River Falls state park. I was already through 1 and a half of my water bottles even though I refilled at Maupin, and I was able to refill there. Plus, the falls are gorgeous, and best of all, the sprinklers were running. Standing in the sprinklers for a couple minutes was a little slice of heaven. That made the 5 miles into Tygh Valley go a lot easier, and even sustained me most of the way up the plateau on the other side. If you don't refill at White River Falls, you'll probably want to at Tygh Valley.

Once you crest the top of Wamic Market Road, it's just a few easy, rolling miles into Wamic. There's a well-stocked store there that is open until 6 PM. The Wamic control closes at 7:12, but this ride will be a lot easier for you if you make it before the store closes. If you don't have an hour in the bank, you're going to have trouble making it to Government Camp before that control closes, as the next 37 miles are pretty strenuous. If you are running late, don't give up, though -- Philippe will be manning a support stop further up NFD 48, and will come down the hill to Wamic to try to get there by 6. There's also a tavern a little outside Wamic where you can at least get water and a bite, and get your card signed if Phil isn't there yet.

I should note that I slammed face-first into a headwind in this section.

Past Wamic, the Wamic Market Road becomes Rock Creek Dam Road and then NFD 48, but it's all the same road. After about 5 miles of flattish road past Wamic, you pass the turn-off to Rock Creek Reservoir and the (already light) traffic falls off precipitously. Unfortunately, at almost the exact same time, you start getting periodic expansion cracks in the pavement. It'll drive you crazy, but they also go away after about 6 miles. About the time that the cracks start up, the road also starts stair-stepping upward. Then, it starts going consistently upward. It's a pretty tough climb, but the road is pretty good, it's quiet, and the mix of firs, pines, and oaks is pretty gorgeous. On this climb, there are enough trees and it will probably be late enough in the day that you'll start getting shade again.

Phil will be up there with food and water and ice somewhere near where the road crests Boulder Ridge. Beyond that point, you get a nice 2 or 3 miles of downhill at 6% grade or so, down to the White River. At the bottom, you'll pass the junction with NFD 43 on your left, and then start climbing again. It's 9 miles from NFD 43 until the junction with OR 35 and the top of the ride, but only the first mile or so is steep. The rest is generally uphill, but there are some flat and even downhill sections.

Once you hit OR 35, you're home free. It's actually mostly downhill to Barlow Pass, with maybe 1/2 mile of shallow climbing, and then a couple more miles downhill to the OR 26 junction. It's 2 miles and change up to Government Camp, the penultimate control. I went to the Mt. Hood Brewing Company, watched the tour for 40 minutes, and had a beer and a plate of ribs. It was awesome.

Even though it's likely to be hot, be sure to pack a warm layer for the descent, as it's a lot cooler at 4500' than it is in the desert. ESPECIALLY if you're likely to on the mountain at night.

The next 20 miles are really quick. For the last 8 miles, you have to climb out of the Sandy River for a mile or so, and then it's rollers into Sandy. From Government Camp back to the Safeway took me 1:10, for a total ride time of 14:30.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bike Route Toasting, Part 4: The McKenzie 600k

This is the first 600 I've designed. I decided to give myself a little more leeway in terms of the starting location, which opened up a treasure trove of roads that I'm absolutely mad to ride:

The McKenzie 600

The McKenzie 600 starts in Corvallis, at the Super 8 on 2nd and Tyler, and takes the nearby bike path to Philomath. From Philomath, riders will turn onto Fern Road before heading south on Bellfountain to Alpine. From there, it's over to Monroe and south on Territorial Highway. The route follows this road all the way to Lorraine, where it heads over the hills to Cottage Grove and riders get on the Row River trail, following it through the hills to Disston. Then it's a stiff climb on NFD 22, the recently-paved 5850, and 2102 down to Oakridge. From Oakridge, riders take the fabled Aufderheide Scenic Byway through the Cascades to McKenzie Bridge on the McKenzie River, and the overnight control.

In the morning, riders start at first light by scaling magnificent McKenzie Pass, through the lava fields, past the observatory, and down to Sisters. From Sisters, it's over Santiam Pass, and north on OR-22. This takes our intrepid randonneurs to NFD 11, aka Quartzville Road, for the last major ascent of the ride. At the top, it's downhill for miles at river grade to Sweet Home, rollers to Lebanon, and flat across the Willamette Valley back to Corvallis.

I've wanted to ride up the McKenzie Pass forever, I've been drooling over Aufderheide since I heard about the Oregon Ultimate Bike Ride, the Row River Trail plus the climb over to Oakridge caught my eye from being on Cycle Oregon a couple years ago, and Quartzville just came from looking at a map, realizing that it was designated as paved the whole way (which I have corroborated), and figuring that it would be an awesome ride. So, this was a way to pack 'em all into one epic rando challenge -- about 50% of the roads on this ride are one-and-a-half lane roads through the forest with no traffic and trees growing right up to the edges. Sounds pretty good to me. I'm hoping to run this as a summer 600 next year; alas, it's not likely to be doable before then because of work ODOT is doing on 242 this summer

Here's the elevation profile. Don't look too hard at it; down that path lies madness.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

4/25/2008 -- Columbia Foothills 205k

Having recently designed and submitted to RUSA 3 permanents, I decided that it might be a good idea to actually ride them before I sent my woolly randonneuring friends off for sheering. I've ridden most of each of the three, but designing a new route is nothing to me if I can't satisfy my yen for adventure by throwing in some new roads. While I'm pretty confident in the research that I do beforehand, there's just no substitute for actually going out and seeing what things are like on the ground. And, half of the fun in designing a course with new roads is in then going out and riding them.

So I sent out an email to Sam Huffman to see if he was up for a 200k adventure for no credit, and he was game. He met me at my house on a cool, grey Saturday morning. The plan was to get a leisurely 9 am start, spend the day scouting out the Columbia Foothills 205k, and finish up before dinner.

The Columbia Foothills 205 is based on a year-round route that I've done a couple times, going up to Longview on low-traffic roads on the Washington side of the Columbia, and coming back into town on US 30 on the Oregon side. I've modified the route a little bit to make it into a permanent, though, simplifying it through Vancouver, and adding a segment that goes up to Apiary on the Oregon leg to add some distance and to get you off US 30 (for a little while, anyway.) I'd checked out the route from the I-205 bridge to Daybreak Park back in January, and found it to be just fine, but the Rainier-Apiary-Deer Island leg, while not literally uncharted territory, was outside of my experience. I was excited.

Sam and I set out, unhurried, around 9:15, and made our way to Vancouver by way of the world's loudest bike path (where I think we saw Mike Bingle heading in the other direction.) I was pleased to discover that the route I'd described through Vancouver was easy to navigate and reasonably pleasant, though once we got onto Andresen, I'd describe it more as "efficient" than anything else -- flat and straight, with a wide shoulder. We settled into a good rhythm that carried us to the east fork of the Lewis River, and Daybreak Park.

Past Daybreak, we were on roads that I had only traveled in the other direction, on RACC. It was flat for a while, but soon we had to climb out of the Lewis River floodplain and it was rollers to La Center, and beyond that, more rollers. In this stretch, Sam asked what busy road was yonder through the trees, which I then identified to him as I-5. We arrived in Woodland not long after.

Through Woodland on a frontage road, and onto Green Mountain Road. A quick bathroom break, and it was time to tackle Green Mountain. I hadn't come this way in a couple years. I remembered it as steep, and my memory didn't fail me. It's about 1.5 miles from bottom to top, with grades frequently in the double digits. Fortunately the climb stair-steps up, relenting 3 or so times, giving you a chance to catch your breath. I climbed steadily, and well, but Sam easily pulled away from me on the steepest parts. I came up with a few control questions based on landmarks as I climbed.

At the top we took in a great view of the river and floodplain below. The road wound around and rolled a bit, before plunging down to the left in a crazy steep, technical descent. In spite of the fact that I had actually been on this descent several times before, Sam had way more confidence his bike handling skills and the quality of his tire-roadway interface, and pulled away from me. At the bottom of the hill, we found ourselves on old US 99, which never gets too far from I-5, and some rollers took us through Kalama and Carrolls into Kelso, the halfway point. We took a break to take in some calories.

After catching our breath, we made our way to the Lewis and Clark Bridge through industrial land on the south side of Longview. At the foot of the bridge, we stopped at the Starbucks to refill my bottles and escape a sudden downpour. To this point, we'd had mostly occasional drizzle, but as we headed towards Oregon, the weather began to change in earnest. The stop at the Starbucks was long enough for things to clear up again, though, and so we headed over the bridge.

Conditions on the bridge weren't too bad. The rain had let up, and there wasn't the nasty cross-wind that you can get high above the river. Once we got to the Oregon side, we even found that ODOT had swept the shoulder for us (the League of American Bicyclists can suck it!) On the other side, we were quickly in Rainier, made a right turn on 6th, and found ourselves on new ground.

The climb out of Rainier is pretty long and challenging, but not nearly as steep as Green Mountain. It reminded me quite a bit of the climb up OR 47 out of Clatskanie, but it wasn't anything like that long. The dwellings got further apart the higher we went, replaced by forest, pasture, and clearcut. The rain came back as we ascended, drenching the two of us pretty thoroughly. After a couple miles, the grade relented considerably, and while the road continued to trend upward, it was more of a middle-ring grade. Halfway to Apiary, I put together several questions for the information control.

Fern Hill Road ended at Apiary Road, where we turned left and briefly found ourselves in familiar territory. Then, around a couple of turns, we turned left onto Meissner Road, and once again I was in the dark. Meissner rolled a bit, but continued the upward trend through alternating clearcuts and lush woods, with the occasional dwelling. We never reached what we identified as the crest, exactly, but the uphill bits started getting switched out for swooping downhills that just about got us into our top gears without spinning us out, featuring sweeping turns that never quite got tight enough to make us reach for our brakes. There were sections that wound along creek drainages, sections between neat, square farm parcels, and a section on the spine of a ridge, with views of the coast range to the left and the right. It was, in short, a hell of a descent. Before we knew it, we were spat out onto US 30 at Deer Island, next to the Quick-Mart.

We turned south on US 30, and got the whole US 30 experience. The rain had stopped, thankfully, and the day stabilized into overcast and slightly blustery. This meant alternating periods where we were fighting quartering headwinds and periods where we were on the conveyor belt. There were lots more cars than we had seen to that point and there were sections with a bunch of crap in the shoulder. We took one last break in Scappoose, and then got onto the conveyor belt for the rest of the ride. I teased Sam whenever we went by the entrance to one of the roads that goes up the west hills: "Hey Sam. Look, there's Rocky Point. We're not doing this ride for credit, we could do a detour if you wanted. You go ahead, I'll be right behind you." "Hey Sam. Logie Trail, Sam, it's not too late." Nevermind that it wouldn't really have been an issue for either of us if it had been called for, I think we had both drunk our fill of bicycling for the day.

Our momentum was only impeded by a screw that embedded itself in my tire on the approach to the St. John's bridge. That taken care of, we proceeded through its cathedral arches into North Portland, and wound our way along Mock's Crest and Alameda Ridge, back to my house. We glided to rest into my driveway at 5:45, completing 205 kilometers in around 8:30.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Bike Route Toasting, Part 3: The Alsea Falls 400k

I dreamed up this route as an alternate spring 400, in case the Covered Bridges route has gotten a little stale:

The Alsea Falls 400k

This ride starts in McMinnville, heads north up the Yamhill Valley, and immediately undertakes the challenging climb up the Nestucca River Road. Halfway to the coast, though, the route turns south onto Bible Creek Road, taking it all the way to Willamina. From there, it's south through Ballston, onto Broadmead and Perrydale roads to Dallas, and into King's Valley. King's Valley Highway takes riders to US 20 just outside of Philomath, where they come within shouting distance of Mary's Peak and turn onto the Alsea Highway. In Alsea, turn onto the South Fork Alsea River scenic byway, and take that to Monroe. From there, the route crosses to the other side of the Willamette Valley and heads back north on flat country backroads through Brownsville, Jefferson, and Turner to Salem. In Salem, riders cross to the west side of the Willamette, and take roads at the foot of the Eola and Amity hills back to OR 18, and then into McMinnville.

The inspiration for this ride was my affection for the Nestucca River Road, and my interest in riding Bible Creek Road, King's Valley Highway, and the South Fork Alsea Byway. Brownsville looks like a neat little town, too, and Parrish Gap Road into Turner is a fantastic place to pedal. This route is open pretty close to year-round, and should easily be doable as either a spring or summer 400. It's a nice complement to the Covered Bridges 400, too, in that it goes south in the foothills of the coast range, and returns on the flat parts on the east side of the valley, while the CB 400 goes south in the foothills of the Cascades, and returns on the flat parts on the west side of the valley.

The elevation profile is below. Not a ridiculous amount of climbing, and you get most of it out of the way early.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bike Route Toasting, Part 2: The Mollala River 100k

Here's another populaire to do in the Portland area, one that takes us out of the Tualatin River Valley:

The Mollala River 100k
(Click the map to go to the bike route toaster interactive version.)

My buddy Bruce showed me this ride, and as it turns out, it works out great as a slightly augmented 100k populaire (it's actually 107k). The ride starts out in Canby, at the Thriftway, and heads south across the prairie to Mollala. It's flat, wide-open, easy terrain. From Mollala, the route goes down to the Mollala River, and follows it to Dickey Prairie. From there, it keeps following the river up the recreation corridor almost to the Table Rock trailhead. The climb up to the turnaround is gradual, but when you turn around, the descent is quick and fun. The route takes a slight detour on the way home at Dickey Prairie, going over a small hill and picking up Macksburg Road on the other side. The ride back to Canby is a cruise along the edge of the Mollala River.

This ride can be done most of the year, though you can get some snow on the ground up in the hills in the winter months. Services are available at Canby, Mollala, and Dickey Prairie.

Here's the elevation profile: